Sunday, 11 November 2007


After an exhausting week of logistics and paperwork regarding cars and bank accounts, we wanted a weekend away. So the MacNicols hit the road for Edinburgh! The lure of a castle, a zoo and a Hilton with proper beds was more than we could resist. (You'll notice a friend in some of our pictures. His name is Flat Stanley and he belongs to our cousin Drew and is visiting all the way from Texas!)

Edinburgh is one hour East of Glasgow so we drove over Saturday morning. We arrived, checked into our hotel room and walked across the street to the castle. Edinburgh Castle is perched high on an ancient volcano and it is an amazing sight. There is much to learn, see and do at the castle and we managed to hit a few of the highlights. The hike up the hill to the main gate guaranteed a few moans but once we arrived at the top and looked out over the city, we were all awestruck. The views of the city are unbelievable. It is absolutely beautiful. We entered the main gate crossing the old moat and immediately were drawn to the cannons. It is fun to think about the battles staged here; especially when you are 9, 6, and 3 and full of testosterone! Charlie's favorite new phrase is "hold your fire!"

We enjoyed the cobblestone roads and the details on all of the buildings. It's amazing to see these old structures and imagine the people that lived here. St. Margaret's Chapel on the castle grounds dates back to the 12th century and just happened to be hosting a wedding on Saturday(complete with Bagpiper). It is considered to be the only remaining original structure on the grounds.
Ethan, Christopher and I enjoyed the Scottish Military Museum; home to a wonderful collection of uniforms, weapons, medals and information about the armies that attacked and defended the castle. The Great Hall of the castle houses another collection of weapons and we were fortunate enough to be there for a short history lesson. Some things we learned:

Side burns did not originate from Elvis Presley but instead from these soldiers that were not allowed to have any other facial hair except side burns. It protected their faces from the gun powder from their rifles.

Flash in the Pan - muskets from the day had pans that held gun powder and an attempt to fire them sometimes produced small fire explosions in the pan and therefore the term Flash in the Pan was born!

Fire in the Hole - Small naval gunners were loaded with gunpowder, shot, and wadding and then lit by some poor fellow from the top and back with "fire in the hole."

Drafted to the Army - not sure if this one is true but here goes....all the Royal Army needed to have someone sign up to serve was their name and their acceptance of one Shilling. So when they were running out of volunteers, they headed to the local pub and started putting coins in pints of beer so that when the men finished their beer and picked up the coin, they could congratulate them on joining the army. Well, the pubs soon switched to glassware instead of pewter because the men were afraid to drink beer for fear of what was at the bottom! So then the term, drafted to the army was born.
Funny we've heard these things so many times, it's fun to learn about the origin.

We also enjoyed the Crown Jewels, the Queen's apartments, the dungeon and the VIEW, the VIEW, and the VIEW! From the walls of the castle you can see 360 degrees around the city.

We loved it and plan to go back soon. After 5 hours though, most of us were tired and ready to head to our hotel. Ethan and I decided to walk through a few shops and take our time getting back to the hotel. On the way home, we walked through the park just below the castle and enjoyed a night view with the castle all lit up! Spectacular! If only I'd had the camera.

Today we had a full Scottish breakfast (black pudding, or beans and/or mushrooms on toast still not appealing to me)at the hotel then hustled to the zoo. The Edinburgh Zoo is just on the edge of the city and it is old and wonderful. They have a fairly large collection of animals and we enjoyed the day outdoors. It was sunny and cold so many of the animals were sunning themselves in their habitats. Some of our favorites were the Polar Bear, Lions, Tiger, Red Panda, Rhinos, Pygmy Hippos, Penguins, Jaguars and the Honey Badger.

Weekend highlights for each of us:
Ethan: red panda

Christopher: Castle - looking over the wall at the ocean

Charlie - didn't like the dead people (all the fake costumed people in the castle)

Gwen - military museum and the view of the castle at night

Scott - looking over the castle wall and panoramic view from the castle

We had a fantastic weekend and we look forward to visiting both places again!